DOING THE VOICES by Jeremy Brooks


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Four gentle stories from the author of Smith, as Hero and Jampot Smith Each story unfolds in a slightly precious milieu, but all are buoyed by Brooks' keen observations, ironic asides, and--above all--his fondness for his somewhat inertia-bound characters, who sputter and wobble on the verge of motion. In the title story, Harry Smith is a circus child. His father, as he tells it, was eaten by a lion; his mother fell to her death from a trapeze. Now, installed as ""estate steward"" for Sir Henry, a member of the nouveau gentry, Harry is graced with the gift of ""doing the voices""--speaking to each member of the household in the dialect and with the words he or she wants to hear. But he doesn't have a true voice of his own. As Sir Henry conducts a gross little charade of a pastoral Christmas, he demonstrates a callousness that finally impels Harry to renounce his cushy situation and take to the road with pretty Mave, a novel-writing lady's maid, in his company. In ""I'll Fight You,"" first published in Winter's Tale 4 in 1958, the setting is WW II Wales. Young Smith is torn between his attraction to a girl and his obligation to Epsom's Resistance Group, a pack of boys who raid the local Woolworth's to equip themselves to fight off a German invasion, which they believe to be imminent. In ""A Value,"" which appeared in The New Review in 1975, a blind, aging poet eats a pomegranate before setting off a bomb of words in the House of Commons. And in ""Wrong Play,"" the most pat of the four, a troubled couple watch a tiny, down-at-the-heels circus and then express their mutual love. These stories, which may be a bit sunlit and contrived for some tastes, are always finely tuned, sometimes laugh-aloud funny and generally quite satisfying in a warm, comforting way.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Viking